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By Jennifer Yousfi
Stocks moved forward for the fourth consecutive day as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's testified before Congress today that the Fed would "act in a timely manner" to mitigate "downside risks" to the U.S. economy.
At noon ET, the three major U.S. stock indices had all posted gains. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average Index had a 61.63-point increase (0.49%), to trade at 12,746.55. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index gained 17.51 points (0.75%), to reach 2,362.50. And the broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index increased 6.45 points (0.47%), to settle at 1,387.74.
The healthcare (-0.15%), transportation (-0.45%) and utilities (-0.21%) sectors were all down. The largest gains were seen in the basic materials (1.31%) and consumer cyclical (0.99%) sectors.
"If liquidity is restored to the mortgage market it has a good chance of restoring liquidity to the rest of the credit markets," Thomas Lee, chief U.S. equity strategist at New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), told Bloomberg News. "[There are] a lot of companies having a tough time accessing capital because the banks are at the center of the credit crisis."
In overseas markets, Japan's Nikkei Index increased 1.5% with a 206.58-point gain to reach a new six-week closing high of 14,031.30. Hong Kong's blue-chip Hang Seng Index increased 769.06 points to close at 24,483.84.
At midday, the dollar had lost ground against the euro [down 1.543%], the yen [down 1.178%] and the pound sterling [down 0.850%].
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